North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17: Freshman Ryan Switzer tied a single-season NCAA record with his fifth punt return for a touchdown while Romar Morris added two short rushing scores as the Tar Heels cruised past the Bearcats in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.
Eric Ebron finished with seven catches for 78 yards in his final college game for North Carolina (7-6), which won six of its last seven games and recorded only its second bowl victory since 2001. Marquise Williams threw for 171 yards and a score as the Tar Heels also improved to 3-0 all-time against Cincinnati and secured their first Belk Bowl win in four tries.
Ralph Abernathy and Shaq Washington each ran for 67 yards and a touchdown for the Bearcats (9-4), who fell short of their sixth 10-win season in seven years. Cincinnati committed at least two turnovers for the fifth straight game and saw its 15th-ranked passing offense held to 181 yards – 133 below its season average.
Morris capped North Carolina’s second possession with a 2-yard run and the Tar Heels built a 16-point first-quarter advantage shortly thereafter. Kareem Martin and Brandon Ellerbe sacked Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay in the end zone for a safety and T.J. Logan ran the ensuing kickoff back 78 yards for a score.
The Bearcats got on the board with an early second-quarter field goal, but Williams found Jack Tabb on a 3-yard screen pass on the next possession to send the Tar Heels into the break with a 23-3 lead. After Cincinnati’s opening drive of the second half stalled, Switzer ran the subsequent punt back 86 yards for a score while Morris gave North Carolina a 36-10 advantage after three quarters with a 1-yard plunge.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Switzer's return tied the mark set by Hawaii's Chad Owens in 2004 as all five of his punt returns for scores have come over the final five games of the season. … Cincinnati, which gave up a total of 12 sacks entering Saturday, surrendered five in this contest. … Of North Carolina’s 55 touchdowns this season, 46 were scored by freshmen or sophomores while Tabb’s second-quarter touchdown ended a stretch in which underclassmen had tallied the last 28 touchdowns for the Tar Heels.